Global Contest to Promote Economic Opportunity

Published Jan-10-12

A global competition to find the brightest and most innovative ways to help the world’s poor achieve economic independence.

eBay Foundation, United States

The Story:

Global Contest to Promote Economic Opportunity According to the World Bank 80 percent of the planet’s population lives on less than $10 per day. In the USA alone, one in every six Americans lives in poverty. These startling figures and the facts behind them provided the impetus for an open innovation initiative to find the most innovative and creative market-based solutions to provide economic opportunities for disadvantaged people.

In March 2011 eBay Foundation in conjunction with Ashoka Changemakers (a global online community that fosters change) launched The Opportunity Project to hear from those who are making a difference. Specifically they were after submissions from individuals, organizations and collaborations that are expanding the qualifications of people, using technology and/or the Internet to connect job seekers with employees and promoting new ways for businesses to makes the most of the talents of their workforce.

Economic Empowerment

“The Opportunity Project extends our belief in creating opportunity and making a difference in the world by supporting social innovations in vulnerable communities,” said John Donahoe, President and Chief Executive Officer, eBay, Inc. “We hope The Opportunity Project can help scale market-based solutions that benefit families and strengthen communities through economic empowerment.”

In all, the competition attracted 873 entries from 83 countries for the chance to win a $50,000 funding boost and the opportunity to connect with a global community and gain visibility for the submitted projects.

Contest Winners

The winning ideas were selected by a combination of public voting (via Facebook and the platform) and expert evaluation. Ten finalists were selected by the public and these were assessed by an international panel of judges to settle on the five winners who best met three principle criteria – innovation, social impact, and sustainability.

"I am inspired to see the breadth of innovative solutions that are creating economic opportunity for the world's most vulnerable," said Diana Wells, President, Ashoka.

The five winners were:

1) Nuru Energy to Empower: Rural Energy Entrepreneurship (India and
East Africa)

Provides an affordable and non-polluting substitute for kerosene to light off-grid homes. The organization’s model also enables local entrepreneurs to operate their own microfranchises.

2) Solidarium Fair Trade (Brazil)

Builds a network of producers, product designers and allied organisations that empowers thousands of Brazilian women who make Fair Trade goods to participate in the market economy.

3) Grameen Foundation: Mobile Microfranchising (Indonesia)

A business model of mobile franchising that has recruited more than 7,000 entrepreneurs who are 100% profitable.

4) Fundacion Paraguaya: The Financially Self-Sufficient School Model:
Economically Empowering Education for Low-Income Youth (Paraguay)

Students learn and sharpen their entrepreneurial skills with small-scale campus enterprises. These endeavours earn enough money to fund the school’s operating costs. One hundred percent of students have found jobs, continued with their education or found new businesses.

5) Twin Cities RISE! Nonprofit Innovation through Pay-for-Performance
Funding (USA)

Pay-for-performance funding where the state issues bonds that creates funding for groups that help people to find work who face significant employment challenges.

The Next Steps

The value of an open innovation contest is not only in the creation of novel ideas, but also in providing a bigger platform for existing innovations so they can attract further support and/or spur others into action.

In addition to the cash prizes and recognition The Opportunity Project will be working with the winners to explore other ways in which it can support and scale their ideas.

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